The best time of year to take a vacation also happens to be the best time to catch a big whiff of pollen and get sidelined with a super-sized sneezing fit. If you or a family member has allergies, be they seasonal or food-related, it’s a good idea to work them into your trip preparations so you’re not caught unaware.
David Lang, MD, head of Allergy/Immunology in the Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic, was reminded of the importance of advance planning when he checked into a hotel, only to find his next-door neighbor strolling down the hall with a dog.
“If you’re allergic to pets, you might want to call ahead,” Dr. Lang advised in a recent article on Prevention.com.
Dr. Lang also has some other tips to share with allergy sufferers on the go. For instance, be sure to bring all your medications with you in a carry-on bag in their original containers with doctors’ instructions and pharmacy phone numbers.
Dr. Lang told Prevention that it’s important to be taking medication regularly—rather than waiting for your symptoms to occur.
If you have seasonal allergies, Dr. Lang says, it’s a good idea to research your destination in advance to determine what allergens are prevalent during the time of year you’re traveling. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Airnow allows you to compare the best months for air quality in states and counties throughout the country.
Once you’ve arrived at your hotel, use the air conditioning because it can reduce pollen exposure by more than 90 percent. “We don’t expect our patients to hibernate,” Dr. Lang said, “but use of air conditioning in buildings and in cars is a very important measure to reduce exposure to relevant outdoor allergens; less exposure translates into a lower level of symptoms and less medication reliance.” Shower and change clothes if you’ve been outdoors to get rid of some of the pollen you’ve been carrying around.
If you’re dealing with severe allergies, you might want to choose international destinations where you speak the language so you can quickly and accurately communicate the nature of the allergy in an emergency. With food allergies, if you don’t speak the language, write down harmful ingredients in the language where you’re traveling so you can show them when ordering food.
When you make your itinerary, map the location of the hospital nearest your hotel so you know how to get there in case of a severe allergic reaction.
If you have food allergies, consider lodging that includes a kitchen or kitchenette. Wash dishes before you use them. Always carry an EpiPen with you in case of a severe reaction. Better yet, pack two EpiPens.
With seasonal allergies, if you’re driving to your destination, air out the car 10 minutes before you leave. Turn on the air conditioning and check to make sure vents are working properly. It’s best to leave in the early morning or late evening, when you’ll likely encounter less traffic and air pollution.
On a plane, pressurized cabin air is very dry. Keep seasonal allergies in check with a saline spray or mist.
Bring your own pillows to minimize allergic symptoms in hotel rooms.